Op Whaledump – A Military Analysis – Part 4 – Information Warfare

5 September 2014

Cameron Slater, the owner of the Whale Oil blog site, has asked the courts to injunct the news media and the hacker (‘Rawshark’ aka ‘Whaledump’) over the release of his hacked communications. This hearing is today (5 September). I don’t intend to try and anticipate the judge’s ruling but rather to take a quick look at where I think we are in the information warfare cycle. The diagram attached is just one view of the information warfare environment but its simplicity assists with a brief analysis. Since Slater was the target, let’s assign him as the red side of the model and Rawshark the blue side. As far as we know, there have been no physical attacks so the bottom section of each side’s decision cycle, labelled ‘Physical Dimension’ can be put aside for now.

Norms, morals, culture, beliefs and values make up the human perceptual aspect (i.e. what drives them) of both sides. As this campaign has developed, we have been able to get some sense of Rawshark, albeit mostly through Nicky Hager’s explanation of Rawshark’s motivation. However, we can also deduce elements from the conduct of his or her Twitter accounts (@Whaledump and @Whaledump2). They show a patience in releasing the material and, through redacting some personal information, show a sense of what is in the public interest and what is not. Slater’s personality is laid bare in the transcripts of his communications and there is plenty of congruence between those words and how he conducts himself in person e.g. his acceptance speech at the Canon media awards and his doorstep interview following Judith Collins resignation as a minister.

Up until 3 Sep, Rawshark has held the initiative and every attempt by anyone in the target group (or collateral damage zone) to blunt his effects in the middle section (information dimension) have been pointless. Suggestions that the contents of Hager’s book were untrue were swiftly dealt to with the release of emails supporting the story. Attempts to portray the emails as forgeries were undone by individuals in the target group publicly apologising for saying those things. Clearly, the cognitive dimension had, by that stage, come into play. A ‘hard-nosed’ defender doesn’t throw their hands up in public. Neither do they ‘own-goal’ themselves by releasing emails that the hackers do not have (I would add that, if Rawshark did have the Collins email that was passed to the PM and denied having it, it was a superb piece of psychological warfare on their part).

The first counter-attack by Slater was a complaint to Twitter that saw the original @Whaledump account suspended. In a matter of hours, @Whaledump2 was operating. Complaining to Twitter was a bit like bringing a knife to a gunfight. On 4 Sep, Slater applied to the courts to gain an injunction against further use of his emails and social media chats. That is currently being heard but, as further evidence of the effect that Rawshark’s campaign is having in the cognitive dimension, it has been reported that part of Slater’s claim is in regard to his ‘mental distress.’

At this stage, I do not believe that Op Whaledump will release any more material until after the judge’s ruling. He or she will not wish to antagonise the judge and a release while the case is being heard would do exactly that. There is likely to be much legal manoeuvring over this case. I have no doubt that Rawshark has made contingency plans for getting other relevant material ‘to target’. There is an interesting ‘white hat hacker’ element to how this campaign is being conducted. For a further explanation you could search organisations such as ‘L0pht Heavy Industries’ or similar hacker/security collectives.

UPDATE: At 1243 hours 5 Sep @Whaledump2 signed off from Twitter having stated that he had left all the material with journalists. Here’s a screenshot of his/her final tweets:

Whaledump Final Twitter Screenshots
Whaledump Final Twitter Screenshots